“Lo, how a rose e’er blooming, From tender stem have sprung,
Of Jesus lineage coming, As men of old have sung...,
Isaiah twas foretold it, The rose I have in mind...,”
This familiar Advent hymn will feature as part of our service, here at Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, on December 8, when we take as our theme "Stumps and Shoots." The hymns popularity was boosted when it featured in the 1971 Academy Award winning movie "Love Story."
Of course, it's a lot older than the 1970's! The hymn’s origins can be traced back to the late 16th century, in a manuscript found in St. Alban’s Carthusian monastery in Trier. Its original German title was, “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen.”
The origin of the image of the rose has been open to speculation. One ancient legend has it that on Christmas Eve, a monk in Trier found a blooming rose while walking in the woods, and then placed the rose in a vase on an altar to the Virgin Mary. In Catholic theology Mary is compared to the symbol of the “Mystical rose” in Song of Solomon 2:1; “I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys.”
Protestant theologians have interpreted the rose as being a reference to Jesus. Isaiah 11:1 reads “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” A third passage from Isaiah 35:1 suggests another biblical basis for such an image: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.”
The hope that things can bloom in even the most unlikely places is a common theme throughout Advent. Last Sunday we were thinking about “Feasting on Hope.” Our sermon can be found here. Who would have thought that in an out of the way corner of the world, known as Bethlehem (and in a stable of all places) the glory of God would be revealed through the birth of Jesus Christ?
God looks at our lives, which can be very ordinary and sometimes frustrated, and sees them as places where wonderful things can take place. Out of stumps, new shoots can grow! The birth of Jesus into the circle of this worlds life offers to us all new possibilities for peace, joy and love. As we travel towards Christmas Day, let us rejoice in the hope the season offers.
For some music Bonnie McMaken, Johannah Swank, and Marissa Cunningham sing a beautiful arrangement of this Advent carol “Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming.” (Thanks to my wife Yvonne for recommending this link.)
Prayer. “Lord, in Your good time, Jesus our Savior was born. Prophesied by seers of old, welcomed by shepherds and angels, His Spirit still finds a home in all who are open to welcome His love. Out of stumps, new shoots can grow. We pray that our lives may be places where Your love can 'blossom as the rose.' Amen.”
The Reverend Adrian J. Pratt B.D.